Essays · Friendship

Someone You Care About Loses Someone (Part 1)

Here is a thing that has been gnawing at me for a few months. I received a related question that I will definitely answer, but I wanted to take up a little bit of this space to work through my own thoughts on how to not be a jerk when someone I care about loses someone they care about.

In the past 18 months, three of my friends have lost parents. An entire group of friends lost a dear friend and colleague. I also have friends who have miscarried, sometimes multiple times. As I get older, I know these things are going to happen more and more frequently, but each time I feel like a bit of a jerk because I’m just not sure what I can do that will be the most helpful and least hurtful.

And yes, I know that their grief is not about me. But if I’m going to try my hardest to not be an asshole, then that means knowing how to be a better friend when they need one.

Those of us who — like me — are lucky to have not experienced devastating loss (yet) can’t pull on our own experiences to know what to do. And articles out there purporting to share what we can do to support people going through loss aren’t super helpful.

For example, literally each article says some version of “don’t say ‘what can I do,’ do something!” Um … hmmm. I’ve never felt comfortable just showing up at the doors of even my closest friends, presuming that they want me in their space, especially when they are in the midst of grief. I’m not judging those who *do* do that, but if I’m coming over, I want to know that I’m not making things worse by forcing you to interact with me.

So I send texts. I offer to bring food when they need it (which, by my estimate, is usually at least a couple of weeks after the death, when everyone else seems to start thinking things are going back to ‘normal’). And if they ask me to do something, I’m there. I know to take the lead from them, and to recognize that they have a new normal to adjust to, and that things aren’t going to be the same for them.

Beyond that, I’m still at a bit of a loss.

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